The Evolution of eInk

Sure, smartphones and tablets get all the press, and deservedly so. But if you place the original mainstream eInk device from 2007, the Amazon Kindle, side by side with today's model, the evolution of eInk devices is just as stark.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
1 Like

seriously, I never thought a programmer would confuse RAM with storage…

You sound like an addict indeed. This is how advertising should be done: The enthusiasms of a satisfied customer. I still hesitating to buy a kindle because I don’t like reading. But then again, here I am reading. Should put that on my Christmas list.

I read a lot of 8.5"x11" PDFs and my old Kindle DX was good for that. Any comment on how the new smaller readers work in that regard? TIA.

I’m confused… Why do these devices have a backlight? Wasn’t the whole purpose of e-ink to be just like ink? black on white and reliant on some external lightsource.

What are you talking about?

I must admit I found those devices a bit stupid at first but when I had a look at my mom’s eBook I finally understood why people were putting money in that instead of a low cost tablet… Seems indeed much more confortable to read than a tablet screen. That said, the main issue with eBooks is that you loose the “Oh, I loved that book” catchphrase :slight_smile:

eInk devices … basically suck at everything that isn’t reading

Indeed. Yet device makers keep trying to make eInk suck less at more things. Wrong strategy.
Dumb down instead! Outsource the brains to smartphones. Make an inexpensive eInk screen with only bluetooth connectivity. Display whatever the phone sends and send back only raw touch data. No native apps, no “free wifi”, no new appstore, no setup, no new accounts to manage. Everyone has that in their phone. Give us a great dumb screen. Chromecast paper.

1 Like

It’s not actually a backlight; it’s a frontlight, so you can read in the dark. Effectively it’s like holding a torch in front of the page.

In practice it’s noticeably better than an LCD backlight when it comes to contrast and eye strain.


Oh, thanks for the clarification. That’s actually pretty cool. It’s getting really hard for me not to buy one.

" it is reasonable to expect more by now from a big company that ostensibly cares about reading."

Why would you think Amazon cares about reading? As far as I can tell, they only care about selling, and providing the minimum tools necessary to achieve their ends. I work in ebook production for an academic publisher, and the limitations of the Kindle software are a constant frustration. Support for proper display of math: zero. Support for scripting: zero. Audio and video, very poor support. Opentype features? Nope. It will display, but not scale, SVG images, which is a problem for charts and maps. Tables more than a couple of columns wide? Fuggedaboutit. Now, to be slightly fair, there aren’t any ereaders that are even as capable as the average web browser in this regard, though the iBooks reader on the iPad is better than most.

never mind, corrected already

Is there anything here you couldn’t also say about consumer point-and-shoot cameras? I don’t understand why I’d want an e-reader when it’s another thing to carry around.

The point-and-shoot died out because you use the camera you have with you already – the one on your phone. I for one am also reading on the reader that’s going to be in my pocket anyway: my smartphone.


No no no! This is the worst possible change for the reader device.
They are standalone and live a long time on one charge.
Tie it to smartphone, and dead battery there makes it a useless piece of plastic.


I’m still using a Kindle I received back in January 2011 - it has held up beautifully! Looking forward to getting my hands on a newer model one of these days though!

Point-and-shoot is actually better than a smartphone camera. Much better, not due to the megapixels, but they play a role too, but due to better optic system. Smartphone cameras are noisy (due to small sensor), and work badly in low light (small optics + small sensor and other limitations). Also - camera is easier to hold and control than a phone.
I mean, if you only want to post photoes to instagramm - it is okay. But getting reasonable quality… probably no, and would never be.

First: +1 for the Esperanto screenshot :smile:

I actually did have the original Kindle, and loved it, despite it’s sheer awkward form factor. Then I switched to tablets once the iPad came out, and thought that was a great idea.

More recently, though, I ditched my 7" tablet which I mainly used for reading anyway, and went back to a Kindle Paperwhite. The primary features it’s good for – easily reading text – still make it a good bet for a lot of reasons.

At the same time, I remain frustrated by the poor support such devices have for figures and maps and “plates”; and by the very poor proofreading of older, OCR-converted e-books. I’m in the middle of re-reading an old favourite that finally came out in Kindle format, and am actually pretty mad about what are clearly scanning/autocorrect errors – often consistent ones with the same words being mis-corrected the same way.

I realize of course that that’s more a complaint about e-books in general than about the Kindle reader, but I guess it’s really meant as further ammo for the folks uptopic who suggest that Amazon is not that concerned about reading per se. I wish they were, frankly, but I’m not entirely convinced…

Good point. Definitely agree that we don’t want to make eReaders dependant on smartphones, but a simpler eReader that’s integrated with my phone is definitely something I can get behind.

1 Like

I think you’re missing the point. He’s not saying point-and-shoot isn’t better than a smartphone camera, just that he’s not going to lug around a separate device to take pictures when he already has one in his pocket that’s “good enough”.

For a lot of people, the same goes for eReaders.

1 Like

I never had any e-ink device, because I’m hardly interested in reading books - I like internet, blogs and forums much much more. But as soon as there’s a good e-ink device for reading those I’ll get on the same train.

Love the dedicated gadget kind!

Or, instead of an e-ink typical smartphone…

(A) I’d hope eventually our phones would go back to being just phones: have some kind of e-ink to allow great battery, synchronized with the cloud for contact information (no 3G or 4G, just an EDGE-like small bandwidth - again for allowing great battery) and which allows for radio and offline podcasting. That’s it.

(B) Then we’d have a dedicated 4G router, which could come in many different size flavors, due to battery usage…

© And some kind of iPod, which only connects through some local-personal-wifi-bluetooth. Although I never owned an iPod, that way it would make a lot of sense. Or just buy any smartphone and set it to a forever-airplane mode with GPS and wifi…

Finally, in my wet-geek dream, we’d have a way to connect all those into one device… I actually could kinda do that today (despite B having bad battery and no android with C), and connect them all to a belt or some boxers, except for the e-ink phone, which is an essential part! :frowning: